Room for Improvement: Study Gives Nonprofit Boards a B Minus

A new survey of more than 1,000 nonprofit board directors and CEOs reveals that boards could stand to improve their fundraising performance and attention to diversity. But boards got high marks for advancing missions and for carrying out technical tasks such as financial and legal oversight.

The report card is in, and nonprofit board members received a B minus this year, according to a new report from BoardSource.

While boards received As and Bs for their performance regarding responsibilities such as mission, financial oversight, CEO support, and legal and ethical oversight, they received Cs in the areas of community relations, board diversity, and fundraising.

“The findings reveal that boards are generally better a technical tasks, such as financial oversight and compliance, than they are at adaptive work related to strategy and community outreach,” the study stated.

The survey, “Leading With Intent 2014,” gathered opinions from more than 1,000 CEOs and board chairs representing public charities, associations, and foundations. It found, for example, that 60 percent of CEOs rated fundraising as the area most in need of improvement.

While more board members are giving to their organizations (85 percent in 2014 compared to 60 percent in 1994), asking for donations remains a challenge, largely due to board member discomfort and unclear expectations, the survey noted. A little more than half of board members were comfortable (6 percent reported being very comfortable, while 51 percent were simply comfortable) making direct asks for money; 43 percent reported they were uncomfortable asking for donations.

Another area that showed room for improvement is board diversity. Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents reported being dissatisfied with the racial and ethnic makeup of their boards, yet 75 percent rated diversity in these areas as important to the organization’s mission.

The board chairs, board members, and CEOS who participated in the survey are mostly white men over the age of 40. For example, board chairs are 90 percent white and 54 percent male, and 64 percent are between the ages of 40 and 64.

“The nonprofit sector has seen modest progress on increasing racial/ethnic, gender, and age diversity among chief executives and board members,” the report stated. “But distinct diversity gaps persist.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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